Step away from the whole bird this Thanksgiving and give this turkey recipe a try.
Deboning a turkey breast isn’t difficult (just like cutting the rib bones away from a chicken breast, but bigger), but most butchers will do this for you. Ask for a whole breast with skin on, bones removed.
Grind fennel seeds and red pepper flakes in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle until very fine. Toss spice mixture and salt in a small bowl; set aside.
Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook pancetta, stirring often, until brown and crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Let cool. Transfer pancetta and fat in skillet to a food processor, add garlic and process to a smooth paste. Add sage, parsley, chives, rosemary and lemon zest and process until smooth; set paste aside.
Pat turkey breast dry and place skin side down on a large rimmed baking sheet so thickest part of breast is closest to you. Run your fingers underneath fillets lengthwise to detach. Next, butterfly each side of the breast so that the meat is of uniform thickness. Starting on one side and using a thin, sharp blade, position knife about 3 inches from neck end (the widest part of the breast) and cut downward into the thickest part of the flesh at a 45-degree angle, making sure you don’t cut all the way through. Open the top flap you’ve just created like a book. Fold the fillets you removed at the beginning in half and place in the top and bottom V-shaped gaps between the breasts. The idea is to create a layer of meat of uniform thickness across the entire breast.
Sprinkle reserved spice mixture all over turkey flesh; rub into crevices. Rub paste all over flesh of turkey to coat evenly, working into crevices. Roll up turkey breast like a jelly roll to form a log; position seam side down and tuck skin under at each end. Loop a length of string around outside edge and tie closed. Starting at center, tie with kitchen twine at even intervals (apply some pressure with string so turkey holds a nice round shape, but don’t tie too tightly or it will bulge when cooked).
Let rolled turkey sit 2 hours to bring to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Roast turkey on baking sheet until skin is golden and starting to crisp, 40-45 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully remove strings with kitchen shears. Drape with bacon slices, overlapping; tuck ends underneath turkey to secure. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 140 degrees, 30-40 minutes.
Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees and cook until bacon is browned and crisp and thermometer registers 150 degrees, 5-10 minutes longer. Transfer to a platter and let rest at least 40 minutes before slicing. Serve with pan juices.
Cook’s note: The turkey breast can be rolled 1 day ahead. Chill uncovered on a rimmed baking sheet.
Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, November 2015 issue. Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. Nutrition information not available.